In New York, Quad foreign ministers reaffirm commitment to Indo-Pacific

By, New York
Sep 22, 2023 11:52 PM IST

The Quad is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive & resilient, the foreign ministers of the group’s four countries have reaffirmed.

The Quad is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient and to a region that is peaceful and prosperous, stable and secure, free from intimidation and coercion, and where disputes are settled in accordance with international law, the foreign ministers of the group’s four countries have reaffirmed.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, on Friday. (ANI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting, on Friday. (ANI)

India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong, and Japan’s new FM Yoko Kamikawa participated in a Quad ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Friday and issued a joint readout.

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READ | Jaishankar kicks off intensive bilateral engagements in New York with close partners

Following up on the Hiroshima Quad leaders’ level summit this summer, the four ministers reviewed the progress of the various initiatives unveiled under the group’s umbrella. They also expressed their “deep concern over the war raging in Ukraine” and mourned its “terrible and tragic humanitarian concerns”; called for a reformed UN Security Council; issued an impassioned plea for progress on sustainable development goals (SDGs); and outlined a common position on Myanmar and North Korea.

Jaishankar attended the Quad ministerial right after landing in New York. He tweeted, “A warm discussion with Quad colleagues to start my #UNGA78 participation. Welcomed Japanese FM Yoko Kamikawa to the meeting. Discussed defending the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific and delivering on Quad commitments. Always value our collective contribution to doing global good.”

READ | Quad foreign ministers to meet on sidelines of UNGA next month in New York

Reaffirming principlesIn a joint readout issued at the end of the meeting, Quad’s ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the UN, “the enduring importance of upholding mutually determined rules, norms, and standards”, and deepening Quad cooperation in the international system.

Quad also reiterated its support for the principles of “freedom, the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and peaceful settlement of disputes”, opposed “unilateral attempts to change the status quo”, and said it sought to maintain and strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific, “where competition is managed responsibly”.

The Quad countries stressed their commitment to the UN charter and called all countries to refrain from “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

READ | Quad leaders pledge to uphold peace and stability in Indo-Pacific region

The four members of Quad reaffirmed their conviction that “international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the maintenance of peace and security in the maritime domain” underpinned the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. They emphasised the importance of adhering to international law, “particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to address challenges to the global maritime rules-based order, including with respect to maritime claims, and in the South and East China Seas”. Quad also expressed its “serious concern about the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore exploitation activities”.

Quad highlighted its support for the centrality and unity of ASEAN, the ASEAN-led regional architecture, and practical implementation of ASEAN’s Indo-Pacific outlook, and expressed their support for Pacific-led regional organisations.

While the members of Quad have insisted that the grouping is not motivated by shared anxieties on China, it is widely known that the strategic driver behind Quad and the convergence between New Delhi, Canberra, Tokyo and Washington DC is Beijing’s belligerence. The principles outlined in Quad foreign ministerial readout highlights this, given that China is seen as unilaterally changing status quo, violating international law, causing instability in the Indo-Pacific, making and acting on expansive and illegal maritime claims, and attacking sovereignty of neighbours. At the same time, aware that most countries in the region don’t want to make binary choices, there remains the careful reiteration of support to existing regional institutions both in East Asia and Pacific Islands.

Institutional progressThe Quad foreign ministers reviewed the commitments made at the Hiroshima leaders’ summit to deepen cooperation and committed to advance them, “including on climate change and clean energy supply chains, and on infrastructure through the Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Program and the Quad Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience”.

The four countries said that Quad is continuing to work to develop “a secure and trusted telecommunications network with a network modernization project and Open Radio Access Network deployment in Palau”; there is progress on cybersecurity initiatives; and there is an effort to explore avenues to share earth observation data to monitor extreme weather events and support climate adaptation. Quad also acknowledged the role of its investor network to facilitate investment in “critical and emerging technologies”.

The readout also announced that the Quad health security partnership will hold the second tabletop Quad Pandemic Preparedness Exercise to enhance the region’s capacity to “prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease”. Quad’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Group is holding its second tabletop exercise to strengthen the regional capacity in the domain in Brisbane.

On the security side, the Quad Maritime Security Group is driving “practical, positive outcomes” for the region, the readout said. “The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness is supporting regional partners combat illicit maritime activities and respond to climate-related and humanitarian events.”

The foreign ministers also discussed the Quad Counterterrorism Working Group’s Consequence Management Exercise, “which explored the capabilities and support Quad countries could offer regional partners in response to a terrorist attack”. The working group will meet in Hawaii in December and hold a tabletop exercise with a focus on countering the use of emerging technologies for terrorist purposes. The joint statement said, “We continue to cooperate on countering the use of the internet and other technologies for terrorist and violent extremist purposes. We are committed to countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including preventing the international and cross border movement of terrorists, and countering terror finance networks and safe havens.”

The joint readout illustrates that beyond the summits and high-level meetings, Quad countries are now developing habits of cooperation across a variety of domains; some fall within the remit of traditional security issues, while many others are not conventionally security issues but will have tremendous security implications.

Global and regional conflictsOn Ukraine, Quad expressed its deep concern and mourned the humanitarian consequences of the war.

“We underscore the need for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine in accordance with international law, consistent with the principles of the UN Charter.” Quad also said it is deeply concerned about the global food security situation, and supported the UN’s efforts to resume the Black Sea Grain Initiative — a point highlighted in the recent G20 New Delhi Declaration.

The four Quad members also said, “In the context of this war, we concur that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable. We underscore that the rules-based international order must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.”

India, US, Australia and Japan also expressed their deep concern about the “political, humanitarian, and economic crisis in Myanmar” and again called for the “immediate cessation of violence, the release of all those unjustly detained, unhindered humanitarian assistance, resolution of the crisis through constructive dialogue, and a return to Myanmar’s transition towards inclusive federal democracy”. They added that they were concerned about the implications of the situation in Myanmar on neighbours, “including a rise in transnational crime such as drug and human trafficking”, perhaps an allusion to the cross-border implications of Myanmar’s unrest in India’s northeast. While supporting ASEAN’s efforts in Myanmar, Quad called on the international community to work in a “constructive and pragmatic” manner to support an end to violence in Myanmar.

Quad also condemned North Korea’s “destabilizing launches using ballistic missile technology and its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs)”.

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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